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Admissions: Rapid Improvement

Reason for Action

There exists a requirement for Students Admissions staff to read and assess applicant’s personal statements for certain competitive courses in order to determine who should receive an offer. The current system was very much dependent on one staff member undertaking the assessment process to ensure consistency of approach. There was therefore a need to create a robust process that would allow more than one person to score applications while ensuring consistency of scoring in a timely manner. Response times for such applications would typically be longer; hence the ability to process applications more rapidly would prevent a potential student perception that Warwick was disinterested in their applications.

In order to improve the situation, a Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) was held in May 2015 to address the following key issues:

  • To improve response times: ‘Read’ applications being processed some 51 days past the 15th January deadline
  • To increase the number of ‘read’ applications processed from 30 per day
  • To explore the possibility of more than one person being able to review applications per subject with the aim of:
    • Ensuring a more ‘balanced’ workload
    • Reducing stress levels for staff as they became aware of developing backlogs

The key challenge was therefore to develop an assessment process that could be consistently applied to create additional capacity and be able to process applications in a more timely manner.

Work Undertaken

To address the issues, the team were initially trained in the key SCD process improvement principles, plus all participated in a process simulation to understand how these processes could be applied to their own working environment. A Rapid Improvement event (RIE) was held between Student Admissions personnel with academic participation which looked at the key root causes of the problem and devised solutions to rectify them.


During the RIE, the teams worked closely together to re-write the processes and the assessment descriptors. Rapid experiments were implemented to assess the accuracy of marking between different individuals, whilst different options for managing workload were assessed.

As a result of numerous improvement iterations, both during and following the RIE, the team are confident that the following outputs will be delivered:

Applications will be processed 14 days past deadline as opposed to 51 days, a 37 day improvement
Consistency of decision making will be improved. Experiments to date have confirmed a reduction in individual score marking variance from 20 to 2 points, an acceptable level of consistency
An increase in the number of applications read per day from 30 to 40, a 33% improvement